2019 Sundance Film Festival celebrates The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

January 28th, 2019

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a biopic based on the remarkable true story of ALA alumnus William Kamkwamba, premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, USA. Sundance is the largest independent film festival in the United States and runs from 24 January to 3 February 2019.

Directed by BAFTA award-winning actor of 12 Years a Slave fame, Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film recounts William’s life as told by a bestseller biography of the same name.

 When William was unable to continue with his secondary education in 2001 due to a famine that affected his family financially, the now-renowned innovator began to borrow books from a local library. It is from these books that young William learned to build a windmill, from scrap material, that provided enough power to provide light to his household. He went on to build windmills that provided other resources such as water to his famine-stricken village.

More than a decade later, William is thrilled that his story has gone from book to big screen. “I’m really excited about the launch of the film because when I wrote my book with Bryan Mealer, our number one goal was for my story to reach as many people as possible, and the film allows us to do just that,” he says.

The movie, which can soon be enjoyed by the rest of the world on Netflix later this year, also signals a new chapter in a story that has already inspired many. That is, this year marks the beginning of William’s next audacious goal: to build an innovation center in Malawi.

Moving Windmills Innovation Center

The Moving Windmills Innovation Center will be a place that enables youth to create low-cost solutions that address problems they identify in their communities. “If I had a place like the one I want to build, a place that encouraged people and supported them, I think it would have helped me greatly back then,” says William. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind film has already been awarded the 2019 Alfred P Sloan Feature Film prize, which will be used as a seed grant to help establish the innovation center.

William Kamkwamba Young Innovators Scholarship

For African Leadership Academy, this story also gives us continued strength to continue along on our mission to identify, develop, and connect the next generation of Africa’s leaders. More specifically, The Academy is launching a fund to endow the William Kamkwamba Young Innovators Scholarship. This scholarship will be used to provide full tuition, room and board for students who come from circumstances similar to William’s to attend ALA.

Ultimately, we are proud to be a part of William’s inspirational story – a story that has gone from inspiring many to one that now empowers the next generation of Africa’s innovators.

Did you Know: Maxwell Simba, the talented young actor who plays young William in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will be joining ALA’s incoming Class of 2019. Talk about full circle! We look forward to welcoming Maxwell and his classmates as they follow in William’s footsteps.

Visit the Moving Windmills website for more information on how you can get involved and support the Innovation Center.



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This is an article from The Network Unleashed – the blog that highlights the adventures and accomplishments of our program alumni and tracks the impact they are making around the world. Visit the ALA promise here.


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